The first move on the India-China chessboard | HT Editorial
Expect prolonged talks on the dispute. India will have to deploy a range of toolsUpdated: Jun 07, 2020, 19:34 IST
The first round of any talks with China regarding territory is akin to the pawn move that opens a chess game. Indeed, it would have been a surprise if meetings between mid-level diplomats and military officers from India and China, last week, had resulted in anything concrete. Initial engagements are about establishing motives, determining redlines and establishing credibility. Many more such rounds can be expected. Arguably, New Delhi’s initial interest will be to find out what exactly has led Beijing to block access to the disputed middle portion of Pangong Tso. It is still not clear if there is some geopolitical motive behind China’s sudden move to raise the border temperature, going beyond concerns about new highways and bunkers. If so, the stakes will be much higher and require the deployment of a wide range of pressure points to persuade China to withdraw.
India expects a long period of negotiation and confrontation. The Doklam standoff took over two months to resolve and the earlier Sumdorong Chu altercation took almost eight years. Today, with an even more assertive and confident China, and the rest of the world distracted by the coronavirus disease, India’s task will be all that much harder. Beijing tends to see democracies as weak-willed. The government will have to communicate by deeds and words, both domestically and internationally, that it is impossible to accept China’s unilateral and coercive actions. The Indian government will also need to communicate with its people and media on the need for patience.